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PIMCITY: BUILDING THE NEXT GENERATION PERSONAL DATA PLATFORMS

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PIMCITY (PIMCITY: BUILDING THE NEXT GENERATION PERSONAL DATA PLATFORMS)

Reporting period: 2021-06-01 to 2022-08-31

The web economy has been revolutionized by unprecedented possibility of collecting massive amounts of user personal data, which lead the web to become the largest data market and created the biggest companies in our history. Unfortunately, this change has deep consequences for users, who, deprived of any negotiation power, are compelled to blindly provide their data for free access to services.
Data collection is opaque, fragmented and disharmonic, so that users have no control over their personal data, and, thus, on their privacy. Personal Information Management Systems (PIMS) aim to give users back control over their data, while creating transparency in the market. However, so far, they have failed to reach business maturity and sizeable user bases. PIMCity offers tools to change this scenario.

First, we implement a PIMS development kit (PDK) to commoditize the complexity of creating PIMS. This lowers the barriers for companies and SME to enter the web data market.
Second, we design and deploy novel mechanisms to increase users' awareness: (i) the Transparency Tags (TT) show users essential information about the services they access, in a simple and easy to understand manner; (ii) the Personal Data Avatar (PDA) is an intuitive means for users to control the information shared to third parties. Third, we demonstrate the effectiveness of the above tools by engineering EasyPIMS, our fully-fledged PIMS. We commit to build the largest-ever transparent data marketplace implementing and demonstrating EasyPIMS with hundred of thousands of end-users, collaborating with advertisers and operators in the web market. We strongly believe that an open market for data will only flourish if we stop the arms race between users and services.

According to the above, in PIMCity, we commit to design a new fair and safe data economy, implement and release prototypes of its components, and demonstrate how it works by involving real end users, advertisers and operators in the arena. Our objectives can be shortly summarized as follows:

Technological Objectives:
1. We have designed, implemented, demonstrated, and released the PIMS Development Kit (PDK), containing easy to use, interoperable, and portable software components that can be used for building new PIMS, quickly and inexpensively. Our components cover common PIMS needs, i.e. consent management, data storage and management, data privacy, access control and revocation, privacy protection and privacy preserving analytics among others. Open API allow access to components in a seamless manner.
2. We built EasyPIMS, a fully-fledged PIMS for controlling, visualizing, releasing, and monetizing web and mobility data, and demonstrate how easy it is to combine the PDK components to create fast and economically powerful real world PIMS.
3. We integrated the Transparency Tag component from the PDK to the ERMES CYBERSECURITY product to demonstrate how easy it is to extend existing platforms with new functionalities from our PDK.

Business Development Objectives:
4. Building on the technology produced within the project, we have reached user bases thousands of users. This demonstrates that the interest of end users and data buyers is sizable, even if scaling to large numbers remains one of the challenges of the PIMS idea.
5. We showed how to build PIMS technology and business models that stay clear of privacy-related arms races by including and providing requirements from the beginning for all the stakeholders of the personal data monetization ecosystem, including the end users, the information collectors, the advertising sector, and the technology providers at the platform, and machine learning/analytics services, in perfect accordance to regulations and data protection best-practice.
During the project, we worked to define the architecture of the PIMS Development Kit (PDK) modules, to collect end-user requirements involving more than 240 people that answered questionnaires. The results underlined the need for a user-centric development of the technologies to support informed decisions.
Starting from this, we defined the requirements of each PDK module, which we released to the public on the GitLab page https://gitlab.com/pimcity.
With this, we offer tools to improve users' privacy (the Personal Data Safe and the Personal Consent Manager that allows users to store their data and define how to share them; and the Privacy Metrics and the Personal Privacy-Preserving Analytics modules that allow to process data under privacy constraints), tools to provide value and trade to data (the Data Valuation Tools that allow obtaining an estimate of the personal data, and the Data Trading Engine that supports the creation of a data marketplace), and tools for improved data management (Data Aggregation, Data Provenance, Data Portability Control, that allows to process data and obtain aggregate information). All the modules offer Open API - well documented and ready to be used for developers.

In the second part of the project, we worked on demonstrating the idea of PIMS by designing, developing and testing EasyPIMS (https://www.easypims.com). We designed it to be simple to use and offer possibly interesting actions to end-users. After the internal testing, we opened the platform to actual users, by announcing and advertising it on social media platforms, via newsletters, and participating to privacy oriented venues. In three months, we reached a user base of more than 3500 registered users that used the platform regularly and let us collect important feedback. At the same time, we opened the data marketplace to data buyers who were allowed to access users data based on the consent they gave. The limited customer base allowed data buyer to grasp the value of PIMS, but didn't allow them to check at scale their potential.
On the one hand, this demonstrates the validity of the idea of PIMS. On the other end, the difficulty of onboarding real users confirms the traction of PIMS has yet to grow.

In parallel, we worked on dissemination, with more than 45 technical and scientific contributions in top conferences and journals, and presentations, online seminars, workshops where we presented the technology and collected feedback from the community. All the material can be found on the project website at www.pimcity-h2020.eu.
We are now working on the definition of the EasyPims - our demonstrators that will build on the top of the PDK modules to offer a fully-fledged PIMS solution. We target both the B2B and the B2C use cases. This will allow us to collect feedback from people involved in the testing and gather socio-economic impact and foresee wider societal implications.
Main EasyPIMS website
Modules of the PIMS Development Kit
EasyPIMS Marketplace
EasyPIMS Main screen